Powell keeps No. 22 legacy alive and well

Ncaa Lacrosse Championship

May 28, 2001|By Mike Preston

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Syracuse doesn't hide the best player on its team. He is usually wearing No. 22. It's been Gary Gait, Charlie Lockwood, Casey Powell and Ryan Powell. And now it's Michael Powell.

The new No. 22. The one nicknamed "The Future." Powell is only a freshman, but one day he'll be the best player at Syracuse, maybe the best Powell ever to play the game. And that's quite an honor when you consider that both older brothers, Casey and Ryan, were four-time All-Americans at Syracuse.

Michael Powell is the top point producer on this year's team with 66, including 38 assists. If he controls the tempo in today's championship game against Princeton at Rutgers, the Tigers will lose. There is no doubt. Princeton coach Bill Tierney has been trying to stop the Powells for years, without a lot of luck.

Syracuse and the Powells -- they are synonymous.

Casey Powell played at Syracuse from 1995 through 1998 and finished as the leading point-scorer in school history with 287. Ryan played from 1997 through 2000 and, not to be outdone by his older brother, tied him as the school's all-time leading scorer.

When it was Michael's turn to choose a college, this was a no-brainer. But he still put a scare into Syracuse coach John Desko.

"You were allowed five visits, and I went to Virginia, Princeton, Hopkins, Fairfield and Syracuse," said Powell, who can play both attack and midfield. "They [Syracuse] were a little upset when I went to Hopkins, I imagine, but they knew my heart was at Syracuse. I guess people would have been a little distraught if I had gone to Hopkins."

Said Desko: "He was smart. He looked around at a lot of schools. He took his visits, but when it was all said and done, he liked the style of Syracuse lacrosse. He saw the success of his brothers and how they fit in. He thought he would probably fit in the same way."

Actually, the torch was passed from Ryan to Michael last year in the final seconds of the NCAA championship game. Ryan recorded an assist in the last 20 seconds to tie Casey's record, and then posed for a picture with Casey at the end of the game.

But before the photograph was taken, Ryan waved Michael onto the field in College Park, Md., and handed him the No. 22 jersey.

"The Future" had arrived.

"In all honesty, I had been waiting to play for Syracuse for a long time," said Michael Powell, who attended Carthage (N.Y.) High, 86 miles north of Syracuse. "I remember when our elementary school teacher gave Casey his first lacrosse stick, and we just kept handing them down. When we played out in the back yard, I was the whiner of the group. Coach Simmons [former Syracuse coach Roy Simmons Jr.] used to come and watch Casey play. I would go out at halftime and shoot on the net a little bit. I would go behind the back, start getting a little fancy. He recognized me then, and that started persuading me."

Simmons and Desko were right. Michael Powell has the stickwork and skill of Casey, and might eventually develop the power and bull dodge of Ryan. Desko uses him in many ways.

Because of his speed, hustle and desire to win ground balls, the Orangemen sometimes use him at the midfield on faceoffs. He has superb passing skills, which makes him ideal to use behind the goal; sometimes he is used as a decoy to draw double coverage and provide shooting lanes for attackman Michael Springer and midfielder Josh Coffman.

Desko knows Powell is a complete player -- and just as flashy as his brothers with his quick stick shots and no-look and over-the-shoulder passes.

"God, is he explosive," said Orangemen attackman Liam Banks, who also specializes in distributing the ball. "He is not one-dimensional. He is a great dodger who can draw a lot of double teams, and he makes it easier for me as a feeder. Mike is unbelievable putting up the numbers he has this year and blowing past people. Eventually, teams are going to start coming up with schemes to stop him. You can't let a person with that kind of vision, shooting efficiency and passing ability run around without drawing up some kind of schemes to stop him."

Michael Powell has heard all the comparisons to his brothers. Adversaries use them to taunt him on the field. But at Syracuse, the standard joke around campus is whether the alumni have raised enough money for Michael's parents, Susan and Lawrence, to have another child.

Cloning has been mentioned as another option. There has been talk about testing the water in Carthage. But there is one younger Powell left in the fold. Mason Powell is only 7.

"It's amazing what people ask me," Michael Powell said. "We've heard just about everything when it comes to producing another Powell. But there is some pressure. You take some criticism because of the standards that have been set. But I come in and play my game, and try to do it day-in and day-out. You can't worry about what others say.

"The guys on this team have treated me like any other rookie, even though I've known a lot of them through my brothers. But Mason, he is really going to have it hard. He'll have a lot of expectations ahead of him."

The No. 22 jersey will be waiting.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.